Preparing for transplant surgery for liver cancer

You won't get very much notice before your liver transplant. When a suitable donor liver becomes available you need to go straight into hospital.

This information is for people who are having a liver transplant. We have separate information if you are having part of your liver removed.  Your doctor might call this a liver resection or a lobectomy.

It's helpful to have a bag packed ready for when you get the call to go in. It might also be useful to think beforehand about arrangements you need to make. For example, childcare or looking after your pets or house while you are in hospital.

You will have regular check ups while you are waiting for the transplant. So you will be as ready as you can be for the operation.

At the hospital

Before your operation, you will need: 

  • a chest x-ray
  • a heart trace test (ECG) Open a glossary item
  • blood tests

Your nurse also checks your temperature, blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate.

Some of the tests are to check for signs of infection. The ECG checks the health of your heart. Some of the blood tests check how well your kidneys are working. You will have all this done when you arrive at the hospital. You also see the anaesthetist to check you are still well enough for the operation.

Overnight you may have medicines, fluids, or blood products through a drip in preparation for the operation. You have surgery as soon as the donor liver is available. 

Before your operation you might be able to visit the intensive care unit so you know what to expect straight after your operation.

Leg and breathing exercises

Your nurse or physiotherapist will teach you breathing and leg exercises. These exercises help to stop chest infections and blood clots after your operation. You put on elastic stockings before the operation to also help prevent blood clots.

Having an anaesthetic

You have an anaesthetic so that you can’t feel anything during the operation. You have this in the anaesthetic room, next to the operating theatre.

All the doctors and nurses wear theatre gowns, hats and masks. This reduces your chance of getting an infection.

The anaesthetist puts a small tube into a vein in your arm (cannula). You have any fluids and medicines you need through the cannula including the general anaesthetic. This sends you into a deep sleep. When you wake up, the operation will be over.

Before you go to sleep your anaesthetist might put a small tube through the skin of your back. It goes into the fluid around your spinal cord. They can attach a pump to this tube to give you pain medicines during and after your operation.

Last reviewed: 
24 Nov 2021
Next review due: 
24 Nov 2024
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    Wiley Blackwell, 2020

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